Friday, April 29, 2005

Major Mike meets Laura Bush

I had the profound honor yesterday of meeting the First Lady. Through a close family connection, who is LB's Chief-of -Staff, I was able to attend an event here in Portland and meet briefly with the First Lady.

She is perhaps, the most genuinely nice person I have met. The event, honoring the efforts of Friends Of The Children, obviously moved her. As she related some of the very real and personal stories of how FOTC had made a difference in the lives of some very challenged children, she was moved to near tears several times. This is truly a nice person.

It was a great experience for my 13 year old daughter and my wife as well. My daughter squealed with delight as we watched the six o'clock news and she caught a glimpse of herself on TV. But the event was made truly special by Mrs. Bush and her warmth, sincerity, and sweetness.
I can't wait for the pictures.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Special Forces Connection

I was the S-4 of a gun squadron post Desert Storm, when I got a call on a Thursday afternoon from the Group Ops O. We were packing up to leave for El Paso the next day. WTF? I recognized the POC as a Marine Major I had been to Amphibious Warfare School with. After a brief tirade from me, filled with expletives, Paul told me to shut up, and pack up. We were going to support a Delta Force unit for the next week…no questions…just do it.

From here on, I will do my best to get titles and unit designations correct, but it has been 13 years, so a little forgiveness will go a long way.

So, we packed off the El Paso, on their nickel…per diem, housing, fuel, everything…on the customer. This was going to cost SOCOM some cash.

We were to do one thing…have two a/c on station continuously for about 10-12 hours per day. We’d be loaded with MK-76s…small blue bombs…dummies, that give off a quick flash and a small smoke charge. They would be controlling us…pretty much however they wanted to…talk-ons, 9-line briefs, lazer pointers...whatever it was, we were to be ready to drop.

This Saber Squadron had brought with them two remote controlled sand rails, that we were supposed to drop on…they were saving these for night, when we would be on NVGs. These guys came with the toys.

We were dropping on perhaps the most pristine range in America. Beautiful Huey shells on the ramp. Vehicles everywhere, fixed wing a/c…even a train coming out of a tunnel. This would be fun.

We wrecked one of their sand rails the first night…after that they turned off the light on the top, and I think it took us until the second night to kill that one. We were on fire. No one in the squadron was missing. Mule and I dropped two into the Hueys and shacked two in a pairs drop…unheard of. They had us doing everything they could think of, and we had a blast dropping on this great range.

About Thursday of the week, Mule and I flew into Holloman AFB, and met with the Saber Squadron. It was impressive. Custom equipment everywhere. A tour of the shop, weapons and vehicles revealed the keen eye they have for the “best.” Not in terms of reputation, but in terms of functionality. If it was the best working gear they had it. 7.62 machine guns out of M-60 tanks, with stocks made within the squadron’s shop…because they were functionally better than an M-60 out of the box. Great stuff. Vehicles, custom painted for actual terrain, off of satellite photos they had received earlier in the week. Utilities (BDUs for the non-Marines) also picked specifically for the mission. Pros…simply pros.

We hopped into a Blackhawk and went to the range. It was particularly cool, because Mule and I were able to watch from a mesa above the range as our squadron mates actually released below us. Very cool.

This is where we found out some interesting things… First, this whole sha-bang was being done so that every enlisted man in the unit could get an opportunity to control live air…and we were on tap until they were done. Simple, but to the point and very focused in its objective. Second, and this one hurt until it was revealed as a compliment…we were not their first choice. In fact they didn’t want Marines at all. WTF? “We wanted the F-15Es…we know Marine air will come anytime in combat, so we wanted to see what the E’s could do.” Eventually we took that as a compliment…as it was meant. How could the AF turn this down?

The Squadron officers brought beer to the ready room the night before we were packing up. Great camaraderie amongst pros. Then we got tapped for two a/c the following Sunday night/Monday morning…to support their “final” op.

On the following Sunday, right before El Toro closed, we took off and headed to Holloman AFB. We landed. Checked into the BOQ. Bagged a few hours of sleep. Fired up the jets. Took off. Went to a CP. Heard the code word for the push to the IP. Called the IP. Heard “cleared hot.” Lead picked up the pre-set lazer with the a/c. We picked the hand held spot lazer on our NVGs. We each dropped 3 of 6 MK-76s in our turn. Moved to an alternate CP. Got the code word to push to the IP. Called the IP. Got “cleared hot.” Dropped our last 3 each. And went back to Holloman…as simple as that.

We got a call on Tues to start the debrief. “Thanks guys. We won a case of Jack Daniels off our evaluator.” Oh? “Yeah. We had built a shack where the team had to do a rescue, and we called air to cover the retrograde. We bet the evaluator that you guys would get at least three hits on the structure…about 10’ x 10’.” Thanks guys, but that is no gimme. “Well, lead put one through the window on the first pass. Dash Two knocked the door off with two on his first pass. In the end you guys had eight or nine direct hits. And we got the Jack.” We were pumped, because these guys respected our abilities so highly, as we did theirs.

The debrief ended with an invite to Ft. Bragg for Friday night. They had an event they’d like us to go to. Zambo and I flew to Pope AFB, and we were met by an SF type who took care of us all evening…even though we were in our bags, we were taken to the SF reunion…held on the anniversary of Desert One. An honor.

We were introduced to dozens of VIPS, and greeted graciously as the warriors we were, but it was hard to feel comfortable in this crowd. We were your run of the mill USMC aircrew…each of these warriors had crossed a threshold of sacrifice and dedication, rarely matched anywhere in the world. It was truly an honor to be among this group.

We were given a tour of the Delta Force facility, which is highly impressive on several fronts. I’ll only say that the hallway of “graduation” photos is a testament to the arduousness of the training, and the sheer will and determination it takes to complete. And, perhaps the best part of the facility…the gym. A workout facility designed, as it was explained to me, not to get people into shape, but designed to rehab injured SF soldiers. They were not going to turn their backs on fellow troopers with giving them a serious opportunity to rehab and re-join the unit. What could be more motivating?

Anyway…a great experience for me…matched only by a NASA tour given by a personal friend and shuttle pilot.

Happy birthday, and congratulations on doing it right…you have proven it time and again.

Early readers…I don’t believe I have revealed anything classified, but if I have accidentally let something out of the bag, let me know, and I’ll fix it.

Thanks to JTF-FA

Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA) has now brought home 748 American servicemen since the end of the Vietnam War. Their efforts are a blessing to the families, and often help answer questions and heal old wounds, but most of all, they bring American servicemen back to the country they served so well to be laid to rest amongst their countrymen and comrades.

JTF-FA personnel often work in harsh conditions, and usually have to tactfully manuever around semi-hostile governments to get their important work done. They have, tragically, suffered their own casualities in the process. A heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all the personnel at JTF-FA. Bravo Zulu.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Special Forces Anniversary

I am reminded by Air Force Voices and No Angst Zone about the anniversary of Desert One…perhaps a low point in US military history, perhaps a moment in time that helped re-define the Special Forces and the rest of the military.

When I was Instructor at The Basic School one of my bosses…Bubba, no surprise…a helo guy, often invited his many friends to our formal events. It was there I met a tall helo pilot, slightly disfigured with a very different type of burn. Although somewhat discernable, it was not as horrible to look at, as a large third degree burn would be, but distinguishable nonetheless. It was a burn he endured, as he was med-evacced from Desert One. Although he escaped his flaming helo, he was covered with JP-5 (Aviation Fuel). And though he was stripped naked and doused with all available water, there was not enough to prevent the resultant chemical burns.

As a Captain, I would listen to this story from Mess Night to Mess Night. Never getting bored. Never turning away. For his story was about the services working together…pushing to the very limit of their individual and equipment physical limitations in order to strive for the most noble of objectives…freeing Americans from tyrannical imprisonment. They endured great risks in training, and certainly during the execution. And although this Colonel would tell the story, warts and all, it was always a story about cooperation, camaraderie, danger, intrepidness, and heroism.

Although it resulted in tragedy, it also gave birth to the military we know today…Special Forces and beyond. It is a legacy to be proud of.

What Is It?

Apology? Retraction? Correction? Humor? This ran in the Oregonian Sunday editorial page. It is not edited. This is the entirety of "wahtever it is" that the Oregonian published after the Wendy's finger story broke wide open last week.

"Anyone with a healthy dose of skepticism knew it was bound to happen: The woman who claimed to have found a severed finger in a bowl of chili at a Wendy's restaurant in California has been criminally charged with planting the grisly appendage.

We interrupt your breakfast with this news only out of a sense of fairness. The unappetizing episode has not only been the subject of countless jokes on late-night TV, but also in editorial cartoons, including a couple on these pages.

The woman has only been charged, not convicted, but the case against her looks damning, so Wendy's appears to be on the verge of being vindicated.

There. We've balanced the scales. You may return to your Cheerios."

This kind of snide, backhanded correction falls far short of any journalistic standard. As the MSM carps about bloggers, oversight and standards, examples like this highlight that their holier-than-thou attitude is based more in conceit than in fact. As they chuckle in their editorial rooms about how a "big corporation" will take it on the chin with a dozen funny cartoons, they failed to follow up this story with even a hint of responsible reporting.

I guess a healthy dose of skepticism was missing when this story first appeared. Where was the MSM interest in getting straight to the facts? Never once was the question did a finger get in there when no one reported a missing finger? There are dozens of regulations regarding reporting of workplace injuries, and even a reporter right out of college could have started there to run down this story. But it was much easier to sit in the editorial rooms sorting through hundreds of funny cartoons that made fun of a decent company, than it was to do Reporting 101.

How much shareholder value was lost due to this incident? We all have IRAs and 401ks, or reitrement programs of some kind. How did this story affect Wendy's value in the marketplace? Certainly an angle serious journalists would have looked at...oh, but I forgot we're talking about the MSM. To follow much did the MSM treatment of this story as a humorous piece, rather than a serious case of fraud and extrotion further impact shareholder value at Wendy's? How much damage and lost sales will occur over time?

What I find completely ironic is that there are few independent newspapers or stations left out there, so most of these entities, are themselves part of larger, why the eagerness to attack a "corporation," when these editors are tracking the value of their own stock holdings or their IRAs?

I am not suggesting that corporations get a free pass, but geez, how about some decent coverage, and when required a fair retraction/apology/correction...or whatever that was.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Great Discussions On F-22

I have really enjoyed the great scrutiny that has been given to the Ralph Peters commentary on the F-22. It highlights to me that intelligent discourse can occur without rancor and personal attacks, when serious people want to engage in serious talk. Kudos to

  • AirForceVoices
  • and
  • SecurityWatchTower
  • for doing all the grunt work to get all points of view onto the table. Now, let’s get to the business of brining in the next generation of fighters.

    Watch Your Wallet

    What if Republicans decided that it would be OK for the Government to go into your house, look into your piggy bank, and remove all of the change that has not been in circulation for over a year? That sounds OK doesn't it? You weren't using it anyway, so why not let the government come in and take it, without your permission, and spend it on something noble, like schools. Great plan.

    If Republicans proposed such a plan, the ACLUers would hit the streets en masse, and there would be riots in the streets. But when Democrats, in a Democrat state, propose sanctioned government theft of private property, it is hailed as innovative. Impossible?...not in Oregon. Check out the link above. Dems here want to be able to collect the unused portion of "stale" gift cards. They want to take your money, just because you are waiting for the 500hp pressure washer to go on sale at Home Depot!!

    What kills me is that this legislation made it out of someone's mouth, let alone some committee. Why isn't the Oregonian condemning this? Where is the ACLU putting a stop to this before it gets traction? Where is common sense these days? These cards have been legally purchased, legally accounted for by the companies who sell them, and legally ignored by the people who possess on Earth can the government for an second think that they are entitled to that money.

    These schemes show us that the Dems have an insatiable appetite for spending and for programs that "buy " votes, and that they will take any measure to pursue them...except fiscal and programmatic restraint.

    Help me make Oregon look a little silly here...pass this around.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    Careful Fox News

    Fox News headlines and Eco-terrorism case with "Student Gets Eight Years for Eco-Vandalism." (linked above) Vandalism? One hundred and twenty-five vehicles destroyed is "vandalism?" This is a significant act of domestic terrorism, and on the tenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, we would do well not to minimize the threat to our way of life from extremist groups from either the left or the right.

    Let's start with straight talk. The word "student" in this headline leads the reader to believe that this act may have been perpetrated by a misguided youth. It does not give the reader the impression that this "student" was 24 years old and a doctoral candidate. This information moves this act from college high-jinks gone wrong to the level of serious intentional act by a mature adult...a very different picture.

    Additionally, the coined and catchy phrase "Eco-Vandalism" gives the reader the impression that somehow this poor lad met a harsh judge and was unfairly sentenced for his role in some graffiti tagging campaign. Over one hundred vehicles destroyed...this is a serious attack by a growing faction in this country that is getting more radical and violent each day.

    In my job as a Facility Manager, post 9/11, we are in constant contact with state authorities about potential threats...International and domestic. These types of groups are number one on their "most dangerous" and active lists.

    Careful Fox...give us the headlines that fit the story, not catchy buzzwords that give the writer and editors good feelings about word invention or phrase turning. This is serious...treat it as such.

    Sunday, April 17, 2005

    Courage Senators, Courage

    When teaching leadership, one of the most difficult concepts to get “buy in” on is the idea of moral courage. Essentially this is meant to prepare future leaders with the idea, that at some point in their careers, they may have to step up, and in the face of severe adversity or consequence, do the right thing.

    This is the office equivalent of knowing that if you stick your head out of your fighting hole, you will be drilled between the eyes…you may know that that peek is entirely necessary to keep your unit from being surprised, no one will really know if you did it or not, but you know that it must be done, so up your head goes…or, worse, you stay hunkered down.

    Officers are often faced with these choices in their careers…sometimes the correct intervention is rewarded, often it is punished. The effective leader does his best to avoid such showdowns, for there is very little good done with early Changes-of Command, or relief of assignments. But often there is no other way, and the officer, SNCO, troop, must stick his nose into the fight regardless of anticipated consequences. The mediocre leader avoids these confrontations, even when necessary, rarely is this responsibility avoidance noticed, but it has it consequences nonetheless.

    Long digression coming, but worth it.

    My father was passed over for Major in 1966 for the second time. I was in fifth grade and understood little about what was going on, in fact I was never told of why we moved away from Marine bases until I was solidly ensconced in the NROTC program. My mother related the story through twenty minutes of tears. It was obvious the pain of a career change for my mom and dad, with four kids in elementary school and no job, had left its impression. My dad was a “trash hauler.” He left A-1D Skyraiders after Korea for the friendly skies of cargo. He was tasked to evaluate the “brand new” KC-130 simulator in Arkansas. He found several critical deficiencies and would not sign it off for acceptance as FMC (Full Mission Capable). While still on site, he received a call from the HQMC Project Officer, and he was told to accept the simulator. He refused. The Project Officer was a member of the Major’s promotion board the next year. Dad doesn’t make the cut. Terrible.

    Was it? Turns out, my dad did land a job. They lived within two hours of my grandparents for the next 30 years. My mom went from a substitute teacher to elementary school principal. They went from base housing to owning a home and two cottages. They put four boys through college in 10 years. When my father died in 1988, St. Mary’s was packed with friends and family from all across the state of Michigan. Terrible? A blessing. My mom, in her seventies, receives support from friends on both sides of the state.

    My father never said a word about the circumstances surrounding his separation, and he had only the fondest memories of the Corps, and nothing but good things to say about it.

    Family curse.

    There was the time after the first Gulf War, when I took over as the squadron S-4 (logistics/embarkation) when I let my captains and lieutenants enjoy the summer going from airshow to airshow. The only caveat I interjected, was that they actually, REALLY needed to learn their jobs before the fall. Up to this point, they had demonstrated to me little technical knowledge of their specific job requirements. One captain, with his only fitrep to this point a glowing “combat” report, was the first into the hopper. He received six “excellent” grades, vice the expected all “outstanding.” He complained to me, with no effect. Shortly I was called into the XO’s office and pressured to change the grades. I refused. That was quickly followed up by a visit to the CO’s office…with the same result. Shock of shocks…next fitrep for me…worst Major in the bunch. Killer.

    About six months later we deployed to Japan. The squadron ended up with several overlapping and complex mini-deployments. All were handled remarkably well by my team. So much so, I clearly highlighted on the Captain’s next fitrep that he had clearly matured as an officer, and that he was now at the top of his year group. I backed this up by nominating him for a Navy Commendation Medal, which he received. Now, was he better off for my actions or worse off? He was clearly a better officer. I was clearly headed for the waste bin.

    I became the Aircraft Maintenance Officer of a gun squadron in the summer of 1993. Through an interesting set of circumstances, we basically stood up from scratch. On the day I arrived, we had eight airplanes, four officers, including me, and about ten technicians. Bosnia was just heating up, and a couple of months later, a single seat squadron deployed to Aviano, with us on tap to follow them in three months. This kind of pressure quickly highlighted that my Ordnance Officer, a Captain, was failing. Finally, we had to relieve him, two weeks prior to deployment. I was offered a CWO-4 with a boatload of personality, and a few troubles of his own, but off we went. Within a month the CWO-4, known as FISDU Phil, had turned that division around. They quickly were competing with my Powerline team for the “best” division. In the end, FISDU Phil and his team had loaded over 4 million pounds of ordnance, without ONE incident, in a little over four months. FISDU was due to rotate early, so I wrote him up for a Navy Commendation Medal, which he richly deserved. A few days later, in passing, the Admin Officer said that the CO had rejected the award. When I confronted the CO, the first words out of his mouth were “when I got my Navy Comm…” I had to remind the CO that it was not about him and his one individual award, it was about rewarding the men that had made his deployment successful. I continued to argue. It got heated and lasted until he correctly caved-in. On the way out the door, I let him know that I had 24 more awards from my department coming his way...all were awarded. Mine got lost in the mail I guess.

    Finally I capped my windmill attacking with the MAG CO. The Group CO wanted to solo one of our jets to another base where another squadron was deployed. They were flying some hi-vis missions, but I knew that they had an aircraft down with a back seat ejection seat problem. I knew that if I didn’t go along, that the other squadron would cannibalize the part, and I would be stuck with a down airplane on return, with a 270-day seat inspection to perform. Not to mention, canning from an ejection seat is nearly never done, although ops types don’t always seem to grasp why. So, I went along, unwanted baggage, but necessarily protecting an asset from unnecessary down time, and possibly worse. The Group Commander made a point of yanking me out of a job that I had had for 17 months, and unceremoniously anointing me the Group Future Operations officer. He seemed happy to inform me the first time I failed selection for LtCol.

    Hence Major Mike vice LtCol, or Col., or Gen Mike. Disappointed…yes. Discouraged…no. I have the best Facilities Management job in the country. Great pay, no deployments, daughter will graduate with her friends. Had I stayed in, I would have stayed in too long to get the great job I have now, and I wouldn’t be on the Board of Directors of the local Red Cross chapter, nor a Gubernatorial appointment to a State Codes board.

    Simple lessons to Senators who worry about changing the Senate rules...find the courage. Do the right thing. Let the chips fall where they may. Maybe not getting re-elected will allow you to look at a legacy that has added stability and confidence into the judicial branch that is sorely needed. Your actions in breaking the Democrat filibuster, while risky, are needed. This is no time to play nice. Do the right thing, even if it means a new career in the end…change hasn’t hurt my family, and the reward is being able to look yourself in the mirror each day knowing that more good than harm was done with your actions. Stop the filibuster now.

    Oh…FISDU Phil. It took Phil about 10 scheduled FISDU (Flights in Support of Deployed Units) flights to finally get out of Aviano…hence FISDU Phil. A great leader and a terrific personality.

    Thursday, April 14, 2005

    Can Of Worms, Don't Read This

    Ralph Peters has a great piece in the New York Post today (linked above). It is a scathing commentary on the Air Force’s persistence in pursuing the F-22 in light of the fiscal austerity the Marine and Army operate under. I, of course, love the piece because it is very complimentary of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Aviation. It hacks away at the Air Force for pursuing its expensive hardware agenda, while the Army and Marine Corps have troops dying in the field.

    Because I have a foot in each pond…every Marine is a grunt, but also being an aviator, I feel I can make a fair assessment of the piece.

    First of all, having an unmatched aerial capability can be taken for granted. US troops have not had bombs dropped on them in significant amounts since World War II, period. If our ground forces had been subjected to 1/10th of the air delivered ordnance that we have dropped over the last 60 years, our casualties would have been significantly higher, and the outcomes, in each case may have been different. Remember the Army in Grenada at the airfield? Add in significant aerial bombardment and what happens? My point is, that we have been achieving our superior results on the ground with a virtually impenetrable shield over our heads…some supplied by the individual services, some provided by the USAF, usually with significantly more capable aircraft, and with the unstated assumption that we will not get bombed. As has been the case for sixty years. So, on one hand, I can’t blame the AF for digging in, and pursuing a technological advantage.

    I will agree with Ralph on the facilities part of his piece. I think the AF hurts its credibility when they over-do their “crew rest,” and “substandard facilities,” arguments. It was a bit ludicrous that the AF pilots had to live in ski lodges in the Dolomites while us Marine schmucks had to live in tents 300 meters from the end of the runway in Aviano, Italy. They couldn’t stay there because their sleep would be disrupted…somehow us Marine aviators are built a bit different than our AF brethren and are impervious to db levels above 140. A bit of advice here, toughen up, show good value at all times, and rarely will you be denied a legitimate request.

    On the “dominating the battle space” arguments. If an AF general said that, then he is ignorant. Any moron this day and age, can arm three divisions and deploy them against our forces, and the schemes of maneuver possibilities are endless. The AF and Navy equations are a bit easier to deal with…ship leaves port, track it, shoot it. Aircraft takes off, track it, shoot it. Simple. No matter how simple ground combat may be viewed from a distance, trust me, simply getting your gear on an getting moving would drain most of us. Fighting and patrolling are exhausting activities that go on endlessly. I’ll say it out loud, the AF units I have come into contact with, would be looking for the ski lodges in the Dolomites after day one. No need for the AF Gens to slam the Marines and the Army while attempting to make their case. I can’t believe that they are not smart enough to know that they are comparing apples to oranges…if they are that dumb, then the AF is definitely in need of new leadership.

    In the end, I believe we need to have a significantly superior air arm, but shortchanging our ground troops engaged in the field, and bad-mouthing their efforts while they are dying, is no way to get it.


    Soldiers at Sgrena checkpoint vindicated. Journalists take are not a special class of people. Follow the rules and stay safe. Make your own rules...take your chances. Shame that an apparently good operative was killed...I hope Sgrena thinks her life was worth it. I for one doubt that it is.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    CBS Cameraman

    While this topic generated a lot of heat for a couple of days, I am surprised to see that it is losing its momentum. Why am I upset? First, it seems highly likely that a US firm had a paid employee, that knew beforehand of attacks on US servicemen, and not only did he not warn US authorities, but he filmed the events, likely providing material for the evening news that is ultimately a commercial endeavor. Two, a subject search, done about five ways, but centering around "CBS+cameraman+arrested+Iraq", on CBS's own web sight turns up no story past April 8th. They do have a nice video by Bob Schieffer, with a couple of correspondents on it , where Bob tells the viewer that this is a serious matter...but no follow-up by CBS...not unexpected, but way too early to bury the story. Three, this also seems to be losing momentum in the blogosphere. Lastly, the moral discussion on this type of behavior needs to continue.

    Until CBS is aired in France as a matter of routine, they are an American entity. If they want the protection of the American Constitution, they should help protect the servicemen that protect their rights. I believe they could still keep their objectivity ( I am trying not to laugh), and report other aspects of the military good and bad, but they don't need to protect this "objectivity" with the lives of our servicemen. The idea that a news agency would sacrifice the lives of those who protect their freedoms simply to get a film on the news is reprehensible. Simply appalling.

    CBS is obligated to run this story to ground. This requires a full disclosure of all of this cameraman's filed pieces, a full disclosure on his employment history, a full accounting of his participation on the events captured on his camera, and an investigation of what this cameraman's producer knew about the origins of his videos and how they were subsequently used. This is CBS's responsibility. They, of course, will abdicate, but this will just be another nail in their coffin, and another tread downward on the stairway to oblivion. Nonetheless, they have a responsibility to get this information out.

    Three, the bloggers that have the wherewithal, and time to continue to push this, need to push. This story, and our troops deserve an accounting of this behavior. Are other networks doing the same? Why has the MSM closed ranks? Are they going to get away with letting this die? I can't put the time to this story that it is due, but those that can, should.

    Aside from this reprehensible incident, we need to continue the discussion about the morality of the press in cases such as this. Jay Rosen's piece in March drew a lot of comments...mine being some of them, but this discussion is not finished. By completing a rigorous discussion on the morality of this type of behavior, we may be able to get the press to accept certain moral limitations that they will observe in gathering the "news." What they have done here is tantamount to conspiracy to have a murder committed so that they could then cover it as "news." Sorry they're culpable.

    Let's keep pushing on this...

    My previous comments on Jay's previous question.

    What I find interesting about Jay's piece is that the reporter in his example could ever feign moral confusion about what had transpired. He crossed the line into the immoral when he sought to observe and report on events he knew would result in immoral acts. At that point he becomes culpable, whether he is enticed to participate, or merely observes even a single murder. The reporter knew what would transpire when he agreed to go along, whether he was consulted in the process or that point he CHOSE to observe murder, and reporting on such acts may, indeed, result in the paying audience tagging the reporter and his company as immoral. They may choose not to, but at what point would the casual observer call it the reporter continued to observe killings night after night? Would the threshold be two murders, three, fifteen? I suggest the threshold is the single event, although others may have a higher tolerance for this type of gruesome grab for market share than I do.
    Make no mistake, in my previous profession; I killed people, perhaps hundreds over the dozens of missions that I flew. The killing was done to achieve, what in my mind was a just goal, freeing Kuwait, but my participation was not designed specifically to boost readership and sales. Therein lies the difference (in my mind anyway), which allows me to sleep with a clear conscience... I can re-play my missions and not feel guilt. If I were the reporter in the example, there is no way I could free myself from the guilt I would feel.
    My advice is keep a moral compass of some kind (not preaching here), or you may find yourself in the downward spiral towards the abyss, caused by the mind bending, and potentially crippling, exercise of wrestling with the philosophical elements of guilt, culpability, and morality. Playing with fire often results in burns.

    Monday, April 11, 2005

    Democrats in Training

    The Dems in King County have found a new recruit as an election official... . By the time he finishes his current gig, and perhaps a little after school detention, this kid should be able to provide some solid advice to the Dems in time for the next election cycle.

    Friday, April 08, 2005

    SecDef vs. Gens Finale…My gun is bigger than your gun

    Thanks for the lively discussion on Part 2. Now get ready to throw the rotten fruit for Part 3.

    While all endeavors must modernize to survive, a realistic assessment of current capabilities must be balanced against a desired future condition, which should be driven by need. In the end, this will provide a guide for organization and budgeting.

    In the last five years, this type of continual assessment and change has fueled a 50% growth in sales and profits for my current employer. Everything is in play all the time, and these adjustments have made us more flexible and responsive. I suggest that there is plenty of room for change in the services, and resistance to it is not driven by military necessity.

    Starting point…budget. At a minimum our budget is eight times higher that that of China’s ( ). Simply put, if our current budget cannot fund the capability to defeat the Chinese, then we need to desperately need to change our uniformed leadership…this is a considerable delta above that of our most capable threat. Granted, a significant portion of the monies will go to support combat operations, but there is plenty left, after the president’s special requests, to fuel modernization, recruiting, and training.

    What shrinks this budget in terms of capability, is being wedded to old strategies and ideas that may need to be re-thought. How much modernization do we NEED right now? How much delta in weapons capability do we NEED right now? How many traditionally constructed ground divisions or heavy divisions do we NEED right now? Again, the world situation may evolve over time, but these are valid questions to be asked and answered, and structural and force changes may be the key to fitting operational requirements to budget realities.

    Next, arms capability. While the rest of the world may be working on modernizing, it is a physical and fiscal impossibility for them to make startling gains in the near future. For example,

    “The bulk of China's air force fleet is obsolete. All but a handful of its 4,000 fighters, 400 ground-attack aircraft, and 120 bombers are based on 1950s and 1960s technology. The vast majority of these aircraft are well over a decade old, and many will reach the end of their service lives during the next 10 years and are slated to be retired with only limited numbers of replacement aircraft likely to enter the air force inventory.” Rand .

    Many countries will modernize their air forces or their navies, or their ground forces, but none have a chance of modernizing all three in a manner to become anything more than a regional threat, if that. While the Chinese PLAAF may have 4000 fighters, they will die within minutes if they are launched. The multiple targeting capabilities of our gagillion Cat IV fighters will take them apart. Our navy is also capable of dismantling their naval capability within days. We may sustain some loses, but they will not be dramatic. Each of our services is more than capable of handling their direct counterpart from any country around the globe with their current capabilities. And that holds for the foreseeable future.

    Black programs. I have been read into two “black” programs. Of course I will not even hint to what they were, but both were very simple derivatives of existing technologies that GREATLY enhanced the tactical capabilities of the F-18, and if they remain secret, are incredible combat multipliers that will put ANY enemy at a serious disadvantage for a considerable period. I am sure that those are not the only two such programs out there, so there are VERY likely many such programs that lend a very significant combat advantage to our forces, even if the are not widely known at this time.

    Training. Few countries (all allies) are capable of training to the level that our forces train. We have the financial resources to support very intense and aggressive training programs, including; combined arms live fire training, integrated counter-air training, very aggressive air combat tactics training, constant integration into multi-service and multi-country exercises, and very realistic simulation training for all manner of training that lowers costs and expands opportunity. How much training are our enemies getting if the Chinese have to split their $50 billion between modernization, sustainment, and training for their 2.5 million men in uniform? …not much. The Rand piece clearly highlights the Chinese PLAAF training deficiencies. Anyone who has done a 2v2 against any wily ANG/AFR F-16s knows how well trained our pilots are, en masse, compared to the rest of the world. Other threats are no better.

    I don’t deny that the Chinese, and others, wouldn’t like to modernize and flex their muscles, but the threat needs to be put into context. And all I am really suggesting here is that, there is considerable opportunity for the services to meet Rumsfeld’s requests to re-organize, and perhaps “change,” to meet the realities of the day …budgetary, military and geo-political…in the hope of becoming even more capable, more flexible and even, more lethal.

    Monday, April 04, 2005

    SecDef vs Gens, Part 2; Geo-Political and Economic Realities

    I think it is safe to say that no one anticipated the multitude of Geo-Political changes that have occurred over the last twenty years. The Soviet Bloc collapsed nearly overnight, “revolutionary” governments throughout Central and South America have been flipped and are as stable as can be expected, democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, resurgence of democratic efforts in Lebanon, and the recent uneasiness of the population in Iran, all underpin the movement of the world towards democracy, stability, and peace.

    Al-Queda still lurks as a destabilizing force. Syria, North Korea, and the government in Iran, remain as the few serious agitators in the world. Cuba, while still a thorn in the western hemisphere is no longer exporting revolution. China, while “communist” remains engaged with us in our attempts to corral North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. India and Pakistan have maintained a strained, but workable “peace.” A serious look about, reveals that terrorism, and muscle flexing amongst the North Koreas of the world are about the extent of what we can be expected to handle over the next decade or so.

    This is not a call for the US to unilaterally disarm, but it may be an opportunity to re-organize to meet the realities of the world map as it exists today, not as we remember it 16 years ago. Without a doubt the biggest strategic discussions since the disintegration of the former USSR, have center around how our forces should be molded, and what “threats” should we be ready to respond to. A simple look at today’s map, and geo-political realities, begs for revised thinking.

    Clearly the biggest worry is a two theater war(s). An endless discussion takes place here on what “could” happen. I think the shift should be it to what will likely happen. We often work the arguments around being engaged in one area, then having to go to war with a major power in another. Well, China is the only major power left, and the likelihood of us going to war with China is small.

    A quick look at a global map highlights the difficulty for China in going to war…with anyone. They could of course, and recently have, threatened Taiwan, but military action would be impossible without our early detection of their forces massing…giving plenty of time for diplomatic activity to diffuse and time for our military to prepare. While there is a nationalistic incentive for China to want to take back Taiwan, the true drive would be for the economic engine of Taiwan. Again, the counter to this would be economic, not military, for an isolation of China economically would be the quickest way to achieve a policy change. Without significant importation of resources, China could not sustain a war and its bloated population…a population that requires vast resources on its own just to feed, house, and keep the lights on. If the government fails to do those things, stand by for People’s Revolution Part II.

    Also, aside from Taiwan, where can the Chinese go without withering on the vine…ten time zones across Russia? Through SE Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, India, etc. on their way to Europe? All of which would destroy their economy and have them fighting insurgent actions as they drive to Europe. The reality is, there is really nowhere for them to go militarily. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

    With every factory that a US company opens in China, war with China becomes less likely. The economic undercurrents in the global political picture are as large a driver as the geo-political picture was two decades ago. While China maintains a happy face about the “People’s Revolution,” they are in reality, becoming increasingly dependent on capitalistic activity to sustain their central control over the population. This is a double-edged sword for them…as more Chinese participate in an increased standard of living, the expectations of the population will also increase…making it more difficult to maintain that central control without that sustained economic activity…economic activity that doesn’t occur in a communistic system or when the world boycotts you for your aggression. So China, at least for the foreseeable future, is stuck on it current path of tolerated capitalism, but with no hope of changing course back to a truer form of communism. As a billion plus Chinese become consumers of western goods, the base of the “People’s Revolution” erodes from around the central government. China will have a political change, but it will be driven by economics, not by war.

    I may not be 100% correct here, but certainly these issues influence what the “threat” really is, and how we should adapt to meet it. And while we wring our hands about the possibility that I might not be 100% correct, taking action to restructure will be a success if it is the 95% solution. The other 5% we can make up with innovation, drive and shear will. No force structure will be perfect in terms of meeting the threat, being economically sustainable, or being sufficiently modern, but a re-examination is certainly called for, and changes likely, based on the significant shift of the geo-political and economic realities of today.

    It is incumbent on the military leaders in the Pentagon to open up their minds, and develop courses of action that were unthinkable 20 years ago. While many will call them sellouts as pet projects or other specialties are disposed of, now is a time for bold thinking and innovation…otherwise known as leadership.

    More still to come on the military realities in today’s world.

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    Sec Def vs. Gens...Part 1

    It occurred to me that the friction between Secretary Rumsfeld and the Pentagon heavies, is actually pretty understandable. My take, Part One.

    I call this the CEO effect.

    The Generals, who know their jobs, and their respective services, have been in the business for thirty years plus. Then you get Joe Newguy who, while well respected, has only been dong this job for four years, and is calling for major changes. Of course there is friction. But it is not paralyzing.

    Sec. Rumsfeld's four years does not translate to thirty years of direct experience, but there are many companies out there that begin to stagnate even while enjoying success. The common thought from within then is, why change? Well, new CEOs...some good and some bad, bring a fresh perspective, and may bring solid business practices from their previous employers that positively impact the bottom line of the companies they assume control over. A fresh look, and a real "business" approach is not a bad thing for all business entities to take a look at periodically.

    Since the services essentially have a two year budgeting cycle, and the QDR is in place as a validation tool, these serious looks at programs are required to ensure that DOD programmmatics keep up with world events. The world can change dramatically in four years, and flexibility is the key to keeping operationally tailored to respond appropriately.

    So it can be expected that a new "CEO" might take a very different view of what direction a company (service) should take, based on bringing in a new perspective.

    But, four years does not a career make. So, a new CEO is at least as apt to make mistakes, as he is to hit home runs...the natural position held by those who have been in the company for 30+ years. Which in some ways explains the Generals' reluctance to flop over and go blindly along with the SecDef and his calls for change.

    The reason we have the JCS, as it exists today, is to provide that steady, calming piece that buffers the changes that will occur with periodic change to the civilian leadership of our services. Without a doubt, the experiences of the Captains and Lieutenants in Vietnam, influenced the positive outcomes of Desert Storm and OIF I and II. The, "we are not going to make the same mistakes," attitude served the services well and set the stage for ROEs that laid the foundation for unpararlleled success. So, this valuable experience cannot be discounted.

    But, this tenured experience can also bring with it a reluctance to change...even if new, good ideas are brought forth. In some instances, the weight of this experience can make it impossible to turn the battleship around, so to get it to stop or change, sinking it may be required.

    New thinking is called for every day...The best example I can give is one from my own experience. I was the CINCPACFLT representative and requirements officer for all issues dealing with CVX. CVX was essentially a working program to fully develop the next generation of aircraft carrier. I was the only fixed-wing, carrier experienced aviator within the Requirements Branch at CINCPACFLT at the time, so I was the requirements officer for that project.

    The basic analysis done at the point that I was first introduced to the project was outstanding...sortie rates, deck turn-around times, mission lengths, a/c reliability rates, ordnance effectiveness, and more, were well calculated and integrated into the "strawmen." It was obvious that, to this point, the homework was being done. All of the data pointed to smaller, conventionally powered, aircraft carriers that carried 40-50 tactical aircraft. A huge decrease from existing carriers. BUT, a/c reliability, munitions lethalities (Pk), and sortie generation, called, even begged, for this reduced size and capacity.

    As the CINC's rep at the base theater in NAS Coronado for the first "discussion" with fleet reps...all O-5s and above...and me a lowly Marine Major in the back of the a man, they all called for a larger carrier, faster, with more aircraft than what the USN had in service during Vietnam. This thinking blindly ignores the fact that sortie generation rates are between 4 and 5 times greater per a/c than they were in Vietnam...that target Pk (probability of kill) was about 100 times greater..and that a/c survivability is about 20 times greater. To ignore the fact that a smaller carrier, with 40-50 tactical jets, could be actually more lethal than a Vietnam era carrier, but then to insist on a full size carrier with a full compliment of tactical a/c (70+) showed that virtually every "tactical" thinker in the room was incapable of grasping the "business" end of the "requirements" equation.

    I finally had to stand up and tell the audience, who looked down their very long noses at me, that the CINC (ADM Clemens) would not sign off of on an "increase" in capability unless there was operational justification for such an increase. Their reply was simple...we should always buy MORE matter what.

    EXCEPT, if you can't afford more capability...which is likely where SecDef is at now...look, you have to make your case...thirty years of experience may prove the key to the argument...but, stubbornness in the face of logic can spell the end of the discussion, and the end of your credibility.

    Both parties bring a very positive perspective to the table, but I suspect that thirty years of experience could translate to more stubbornness than this SecDef wants to hear. In the end, the services need to take a hard look at the guidance given to them about re-structuring and give it a serious look. There are viable, alternative force structures and compositions that will make us a better force into the future. Dismissing that possibility out of hand is what forces SecDef to go "looking down the list" for people with open minds.

    Next...why Geo-political changes beg for force structure changes. I am ready for the hate mail.

    Friday, April 01, 2005

    Sorry...I'm Busy

    Sorry I haven't been able to post. I am overseeing a water feature (large decorative fountain) repair at work, and we are way off schedule. So, I have had my Carhardts on and been 14' underground for the past couple of days. My team and I have, I believe, correctly titled this Big Dig 10. Every year it seems, I am compelled to repair a water line of some type that, in the end, never meets my lowest expectations. You'd think that after Big Dig 6 and on, I'd have seen it all, but after this one, I refuse to expect anything but one set back after another.

    This one involves a confirmed leak (confirmed three different ways before commencement of digging) and a confirmation of at least three joint leaks on an 8" line in a span of 10' after we finally jack hammered through the 4' of concrete that was poured on top of this work, 14' down. Boy was I happy. So, by my estimation we will have been able to stretch this out for about two weeks, at a cost of over $75,000 for a repair that actually took 6 hours once the problem was finally exposed. I am drinking more than one Gin and Tonic tonight.

    Kudos though to the 135 pound tech from Bones (no joke) Construction who spent 4 days shoring the hole, supervising the in-hole excavation, and spent at least 16 hours by my observation, on the jack hammer breaking through the concrete that encased all the plumbing that needed repair. He is a hard ass, and a real pro...he'll be working for me again...

    Thumbs down on the dumb asses who have no clue about gluing PVC pipe, who would ever use schedule 40 in a heavy pressure 14' underground project (schedule 80 would be preferred). All this to repair glue joints that weren't properly glued 7 years ago. A lot of teeth grinding on this one. They are now responsible for 8 confirmed bad glue joints, and I have been forced to abandon over 900' of existing pipe due to their piss poor efforts. Maybe I should get into construction rather than maintenance...?

    So, I'll do my best next week to post, but it looks like I'll be busy with my date...Big Dig 10, at least until Wednesday, when I can turn it back over to the general contractor to the complete backfill and road repair.

    A teaser for tomorrow... my theories on why the Pentagon is arm wrestling with Rumsfeld, and where I think that is heading...might take more than one post, but I will be writing from my perspective as a Requirements Officer (N836) at CINCPCFLT in the late 90's, and I think it will lend some insight as to why each is stubbornly holding their ground on re-alignment. I think I can carry the water on that one.

    Thanks for your patience. MM

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